Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Sarah Liberatore

I was having a meeting at The Spoke Club earlier this year when out of the corner of my eye I spied a pretty bottle with a picture of a red stiletto on it. Sarah was also having a meeting and was presenting her prototypes for her wine concept.

A few months later I see STLTO on the shelves of the LCBO so of course, I had to pick up a bottle and contact Sarah to congratulate her on her successful launch.

What made you want to become Founder and Director of Marketing for STLTO?
Throughout university, I worked for a wine agency part-time and learned a lot about the industry, but I never fully realized my passion for wine until I traveled to my first wine show in Italy. It’s pretty easy to get swept up in the culture, the flavours and the industry when you’re completely immersed in it like that. This passion paired with my education in marketing and international business, and my lifelong love of fashion (particularly the shoe variety) led to the creation and finally the launch of STLTO in June 2011.
My girlfriends were fantastic inspiration, too. When we get together on a Friday night, we want good quality, easy-drinking wine that’s affordable – and looks fabulous on the dinner table. That was my mantra throughout the development and production process. 

What is a typical day in the life of Sarah Liberatore?
I wake up, have two coffees to get me through the morning, then call Italy to make sure all is well at the winery. Next, the LCBO updates me on product inventory so I update all of my files. I hunker down at my computer next to check my email and update STLTO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with great finds - I like posting photos of shoes for the season, and sharing my favourite quotes and recipes.
I also visit about five LCBO stores daily to make sure that STLTO is properly displayed, and I visit two new LCBO stores that do not carry STLTO to try to get the product there. Our goal is to be in 400 stores!
I usually stroll in at home around 8 PM and make a quick bite to eat, then catch up on emails and work related things (it’s 1 AM and here I am writing this email!)
Finally, I go to bed thinking, "why didn't I exercise today?"

What are some of the disadvantages of your job?

LCBO distribution is definitely a challenge because it is up to me to get STLTO into approximately 650 LCBO stores. It’s a long and competitive process to get your wine listed by the LCBO, which we have done successfully, but each store manager has to physically order the wine, so I have to make sure they do! Right now both STLTOs are in 170 stores, so I have 480 to go.

Another challenge is educating women about the unoaked Chardonnay varietal. North America has done a wonderful job at marketing the Pinot Grigio, and many women assume they just don’t like Chardonnays. Ladies, do not let the name scare you! You will be absolutely shocked when you give STLTO White unoaked Chardonnay a try. It’s light, crisp and refreshing with bright grapefruit flavours and aromas of white peach and lemon chiffon. It’s also the perfect pairing wine – just like your go-to black pumps, it goes with everything!

Tell us more about STLTO!

STLTO is a seriously stylish wine from Italy, where both fashion and wine making are world-renowned. With its sleek bottles and stunning glitter cap closures, the STLTO collection is playful, seductive and versatile – just like a pair of fabulous stilettos. Finally we have a product at the LCBO that makes a statement but doesn't lack in taste or quality what it packs in style; both the Chardonnay and the Malbec/Merlot blend are delicious and deliver gorgeous colour and density. They are both juicy & fruity.

I feel that all women are ideal STLTO drinkers – the collection is really a celebration of us. In an industry that seems dominated by men, there is finally a product that is as delicious and high quality as it is fun and fabulous. Whether it’s a special treat for yourself or to enjoy in the company of great friends, STLTO brings the perfect amount of sparkle to the table.

What did you study in University/College? Would you have done anything differently?
I received my Bachelor of Commerce at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, where I majored in Marketing Management. My biggest regret was not studying abroad for a semester – there are wonderful international exchange programs that were made available to students at Ryerson.
Favourite places to shop in the city?

Queen Street West – I love the hip and trendy feel of the stores
St.Lawrence market – I can’t live without my truffle infused cheese!
Winners – It’s hit and miss, but there are some great finds! I found a pair of stunning Stuart Weitzman’s there.

What do you wish someone told you when you were younger and just starting out?
I received wonderful guidance when I was younger and starting out, but there is one thing that no one ever told me: take risks! Growing up, I was always taught to be risk-averse and sometimes accept things the way they were - but if I did not take risks, I would not have made it to this point with STLTO.
What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?
Too many people use the word “impossible” – many people told me that STLTO would never work. Two years later the product is available at the LCBO (the largest alcohol retailer in the world). Nothing is impossible – but you may need to approach the situation differently or find that one key connection. It may cost you blood, sweat and tears but it will be worth it. Stock up on vitamins and Kleenex and make it happen.

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